Knowing our King | Colossians 3:20-21
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
Our verses today don’t need much of an explanation, rather I would like to point out a couple of things that they teach us besides the obvious. Firstly, the fact that God has a word for even the children in this congregation. The smallest and seemingly most insignificant among the Colossian believers is not overlooked by God. Do you remember what was said in verse 16? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” It seems that these instructions are the effect of having the word of Christ dwell in you richly, and it is striking how closely this compares with what being filled with the Spirit looks like in Ephesians 5:18-6:9. It seems that you cannot have one without the other. That is if you are full of His word, you will be full of His Spirit, and if you are full of His Spirit, you will be full of His word, and the effects of that are seen here in Colossians and also in Ephesians. In both instances, the children are not left out. To me, this is a reminder that not only can children be saved but they can lead a Spirit-filled life, and the word of Christ can dwell in them richly. At first, we may be surprised but upon further meditation on this thought, we realize that many times it is child-like faith, humility, and obedience that we adults lack that hinders our service to the Lord.
In our congregations, there are little children and some of them have been born again. It would be a terrible oversight to ignore them, they are his children and have greater potential than many of the other congregants. If the Lord saw fit to address the children in our verses today. Then surely at least some portion of our ministry ought to be to addressing the children among us.
So, what is the duty of these children among us? Obedience in all things. This should be as much an instruction to the parents as to the children. Children are under our authority, the question we should ask ourselves is, “If they obey in all things would they be in obedience to God or not?” What does total obedience to our will look like? Does it look like a God-fearing young man or woman? Perhaps if they obeyed in all areas, they would grow up to be great laborer or a proper lady, these are important aspects of child-rearing, but they are not the end. Don’t forget that you want to raise Christians, our goal as parents is not to make clones of ourselves but rather of Christ. One commentator said that the reason “All things” is used in our verse is to denote the fact that Children should not be given the responsibility of making decisions for themselves. While that may seem archaic it is true. Children need guidance and leadership, or else “A child left to himself will bring his mother to shame.”
Now God Speaks to the authority about what type of leadership this should be, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger.” What a reminder that there is a constructive way to lead and discipline children and apparently there is a destructive way. The word provoke gives us the idea of constant harassment. We can become overbearing in our leadership of the home by our constant harshness, or our constant correction, or constant discipline. I want to say we should be consistent in these things but it should not reach the point where this is the only side of the relationship our children have with us. If the only time you speak with your children is when you are admonishing them, then they are going to be discouraged. If the only time you touch your children is when they are being spanked, then they are going to be discouraged. Admonishment and spanking are a necessary part of our relationship with our children, but it should be just that, a part, not the sum total. The danger of such a one-sided relationship with our children is that they will be discouraged.
The meaning of the word discourage is quite obvious, it means to take away one’s courage or dishearten them. It is a terrible tragedy when by this sort of relationship, a child comes to the belief that he or she cannot do anything right. They grow up into self-conscious adults who either try to hide their feelings of worthlessness with exhibitions of pride and ambition, or adults who never can find the confidence to even try to accomplish anything. We ask, “What happened?” perhaps they were discouraged. How we raise our children matters. Do you remember the instruction we spoke of earlier in verse 16? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” Harsh discipline is required at times of harsh disobedience but teaching, admonishing, loving, and training should be the normative. Don’t provoke them to anger with constant discipline that lacks of constant love and guidance.